South Dakota lawmaker now battling COVID after dinner at governor's mansion

South Dakota lawmaker now battling COVID after dinner at governor's mansion
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A Republican lawmaker in South Dakota has tested positive for coronavirus after attending Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) budget address. According to the Angus Leader, Sen. Helene Duhamel (R-S.D) on Wednesday evening notified the state's Senate majority leader of her COVID positive status.

It has been reported that Duhamel began experiencing symptoms of the virus after she returned home from the state capitol. The day before she began experiencing symptoms, she had also met with other lawmakers. Lee Schoenbeck,

"When I learned (this morning) about the positive test — which was this morning — I asked the senator for permission to notify senators that were in Pierre yesterday," said Schoenbeck.

Schoenbeck's announcement came just days after the dinner Duhamel and dozens of other lawmakers dined together. Noem also took to Twitter with a photo of the South Dakota legislature from that night. The photo captured Noem, Duhamel, and the rest of the group of Republican women huddled close together with no masks.

Despite being in close proximity to Duhamel over the last couple of days, Maggie Seidel, a senior advisor for Noem, released a statement on behalf of the governor as she dismissed the possibility of her possibly being exposed to the virus.

"The governor was not a close contact and continues to take the necessary precautions to protect herself and others against the coronavirus," Seidel said.

The latest news about Duhamel's positive COVID diagnosis comes just days after Noem was criticized for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A grieving son recently penned a letter to Noem following his father's death from complications of COVID as the state continues to face alarming upticks in COVID cases and hospitalizations. The state of South Dakota also holds one of the highest COVID positivity rates in the world at 51.5%.

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